Legislation being considered at the state Capitol would increase the maximum compensation for those who spend time in prison for a crime they did not commit. The bill, which received a hearing in both Senate and Assembly committees earlier this month, would increase the cap on payments from $25,000 to $1 million.
State Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), a co-sponsor of the measure, told fellow lawmakers that the bill is not about providing justice. “You can’t provide justice by providing someone with compensation who was wrongfully convicted,” he said.
However, the Brookfield Republican said the money can help make up for the time those individuals lost behind bars by aiding in efforts to restore the life they missed out on. “A million dollars probably sounds like a lot to the man on the street, but if you’re talking about the amount of time you’ve been in jail…I think we can all agree that money would go very fast.”
Frederic Saecker, who served nearly seven years in prison for a rape he did not commit, spent the six years after his release fighting for compensation. He said the time and income he lost while in prison will take years to make up for, and he will likely have to work until he’s 70 just to try to make up the difference.
Saecker said the compensation is also about giving the wrongfully convicted closure, because it shows the state admitting to the mistakes that put them behind bars in the first place. “All of us who are wrongfully convicted can benefit from the closure this will bring,” he said.
Efforts in previous legislative session to increase compensation limits have failed to build the support needed to pass through the Legislature.